Christmas in Buenos Aires

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First view of the Buenos Aires skyline on the boat from Uruguay ..

Our first days in Buenos Aires were spent with Carolina’s family in Florida, a quiet leafy suburb.We spent our time chatting to Norma, Maxi and Margarita, swimming in the pool and relaxing in a gem of a cafe we found close to their house where we whiled away the hours by playing scrabble.  

Hannah drinking her Prince of Wales tea (she is addicted to the stuff!) and Derek with his mate.

Another dinner invite from friends of Hannah, Sophie and Pancho, whom she met during her last trip to Argentina.

It is always hard to know where to start exploring a city as vast as Buenos Aires which has a total of 48 ‘barrios’ or neighbourhoods. I am not normally a fan of Lonely Planet but their downloadable themed ‘City Walking Tours’ are a great starting point in exploring any city.

The Casa Rosada (government buildings), one of the sights on our walking tour, which has been witness to key historical events

First impressions of Buenos Aires ..

I have asked myself numerous times during our stay here why it has taken me so long to come to Buenos Aires. The city displays hints of Madrid but is for me very much the Paris of Latin America with its wide boulevards, bistros on every corner and stunning architecture. The city does reveal its own stamp however with impromptu street tango, big dance halls, it’s parillas serving up all sorts of meat and packed coffee houses.  It is a melting pot of cultures with a big concentration of Italian and Spanish emigrants. 60% of the population are of Italian descent and have significant connections to Italian culture, language and traditions. Even Spanish is spoken with an Italian accent!

A couple of Italians we met were surprised at how many old Italian traditions live on here although they have vanished from Italy. Fresh pasta, for example, can be found in many little shops around the city. Even I was surprised to here this is no longer the case in much of Italy.

Although the passage of time has brought urbanism, tourism and the associated changes to Buenos Aires, it is still a city steeped in its past.

Palermo and the Botanical Gardens

Buenos Aires has a sculptural fortune of over 1100 monuments and works of art distributed in public parks, squares and streets. We spent an afternoon wondering around the botanical gardens in Palermo where many can be found.

San Telmo..

They say Buenos Aires was born here. It is the oldest quarter with buildings of faded elegance and colourful locals. ‘Shabby-chic’ is what bests describes it. The bohemian character of the area flourishes every weekend at the antique fair on Plaza Dorrego which sells everything from antique wedding dresses to 19th century  furniture. San.Telmo is definitely a place to ramble about.

Antiques market scenes..

The colourful characters of San Telmo ..

The area is also famous for Tango dancing and images of Carlos Gardel are ever present. Best place to see Tango at its purest is at a ‘Milonga’ where locals of all ages gather to dance in a big tango hall. We discovered a fantastic place called La Cathedral Club.

Tango: street and bar scenes ..

                                                                                                             

                 

                                                                                                     

     

La Boca..

We spent an afternoon strolling around La Boca, famous for its colorful buildings. They say the people were so poor here they had to use the leftover paint from ships in the nearby port, hence the vibrant colours especially in ‘La Camineta’.

La Boca is also home to the famous soccer stadium "La Bombonera" (the chocolate box) of Boca Juniors. The season had just finished when we arrived here but we plan to catch a game on our way back in February. Maradona apparently comes to matches here whenever he is in town and it is where he started his football career. The club was founded on April 3, 1905 by five Italian immigrants and has a  fierce rivalry with River Plate, also from Buenos Aires.

      

                                                                                                 

Recoleta

We took a guided tour through the cemetery in Recoleta which is not quite on a par with Pere Lachaise in Paris and Highgate Cemetery in London but nonetheless still impressive. Eva Peron is probably the most famous person to be buried here amongst other prominent citizens.

            

 Eva Peron’s tomb ..

Christmas Day in Buenos Aires .. a far cry from the arctic conditions back home..

I have always wanted to spend a Christmas in a sunnier climate and this was my chance. December 24th, similar to most of Europe, is bigger than Christmas Day in Argentina. There is much less of a build up to Christmas here and some shops reopen on the 25th. It is altogether a very laid back affair. Carolina’s family very kindly invited us to spend Christmas with them. We had a meal on Christmas Eve and the ubiquitous asado on Christmas Day in 40 degree heat. 

Scenes from Christmas Eve and Day ..

Me and Hannah

Martin and Edouardo

The A-team

Derek, Maxi, Martin and Tiago – the dudes

Carolina and me

Three generations of La Familia Dominguez-Touzon. Carolina’s family are of Italian / Spanish origin with La Nonna in the middle who is 90 and still loves her wine.

And so we say au revoir to Derek until we next see him in London. He heads back tomorrow and we have had a lot of fun in his five and a half weeks here. Hannah continues with us down south and Jaime will join us in mid January. We head south to begin the final leg of our journey on Tuesday. The holiday part of our trip is over and we need to get pedaling again.

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